Sandra Wiley, SPHR
Kolbe Certified Master Instructor
Educational Background: Bachelors in Human Resource Management from Friends University
Professional Associations/Memberships: Society for Human Resource Management; AAA – Association of Accounting Administrators; Strategic Coach – Program for Entrepreneurs; Kolbe Corp
Hobbies: Golf, Reading – Everything, Cooking, Hiking, Any Family Activity
Click here to see the other honorees
of the 2012 "Most Powerful Women
in Accounting" awards.
Studies show that more women than ever are graduating with accounting degrees, but few are pursuing, or staying in, public practice careers. What do you think may be causing them to think public accounting careers are not as attractive as other careers?
Many women are looking for a career that is not just about balance or integration, but also about flexibility and control. There are many firms that are really getting it when it comes to the balance/integration part of the formula, as long as they still get the massive amounts of hours. That is where I believe the breakdown occurs. The massive hours are not attractive to many women for a number of reasons.
What advice would you give to these college students about the opportunities for women in the accounting profession?
Learn to be bold. I am not talking about being rude, or aggressive. However, when you see something that is not working for you, or you have an idea to make things better for the firm, speak up! Being bold is a characteristic of great leaders and it is not just something that you are born with. Start practicing early in your career.
If you were asked as a consultant to give advice to firms, would you have any recommendations on things they could do to better retain and advance more qualified female staff?
First, hold a focus group with your current team of women. Use an outside facilitator to gather a list of the challenges they are having. Then, insure that facilitator brainstorms ideas and strategies for change. You don’t want this to be a grip session, but an idea factory. Then, expand the focus group into a task force to implement the best ideas. That new task force should include a cross section of gender, age and level within the firm. Action from the committee is a very strong message that the firm is willing to change.
Do you think that there is still a glass ceiling in accounting firm senior management and partner levels, or that the profession has moved to a mostly gender neutral state?
I can only speak to the numbers that I see, and when you see the massive amounts of women managers and then you walk into the partner meeting and see 0 to 10% women sitting at the table, it appears that the glass ceiling still exists. I would say that many firms are making great progress, but as a profession, we still have a long way to go. We should not sit back and think that everything is fixed.
Do you think being a woman in the accounting profession has made career advancement more challenging than it might have been for a male in the same situation?
In my case, no. I had the opportunity to build a career and due to my partners, my connections and my particular skill set I do not see that being a woman held me back at all.
Now, I will say that I have seen many of my female clients leave the profession because that were working in a firm that held them back because they needed something different in their careers than could be negotiated in their firm. They continued their careers, however most went in the direction of a private company. So, I guess the short answer is “it depends”.
What solutions have you found successful in managing work-life integration. The balancing of your career with your personal, family and social life?